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2020 Tokyo Olympics | Hit, Miss or Meh - How the Indian contingent fared at the Games

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2020 Tokyo Olympics | Hit, Miss or Meh - How the Indian contingent fared at the Games

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sounak mullick

08/09/2021

The Tokyo Olympics was the most successful outing for India ever, with them claiming 1 gold, 2 silver, and 4 bronze medals. While the likes of Neeraj Chopra, Ravi Dahiya and Mirabai Chanu surpassed expectations, some have underachieved, let us have a look at the hit, miss, and meh from the Games.

Athletics

Verdict: Hit

Neeraj Chopra claimed India's first-ever individual gold medal at the Olympics © Twitter

It’s not the entire track and field contingent performed exceedingly well, nor have they fared miserably, yet, one achievement has stood so lofty that I would not mind rating athletics as the most successful of all disciplines for India at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Well, I was actually looking for higher grades to offer, but ‘great’ would be fitting. However, it was in the last event for the contingent at the Games that changed the complexion altogether, just a HUGE throw, that’s it!

Neeraj Chopra, boarded the flight to Tokyo, just like any other athlete, soaking in the Olympic-like atmosphere. Cut to the time of arrival back in India, it will be marked by a festive-like occasion. Well, a throw of 87.58m in the final of the Men’s Javelin throw was enough to send the national of 1.3 billion in a state of frenzy. 

The Haryana-born was deemed as an outside medal prospect, but to return with gold was beyond imagination, which also exorcised the 121-year ghost of India’s medal drought in track and field events.

Shifting the focus to overshadowed business, India’s Kamalpreet Kaur needs special mention, with the discus thrower stepping into the final with the second-best distance in the qualifications, igniting hopes for a historic feat. However, not before staging a fighting display, she crumbled in front of her superior European counterparts. A respectable 6th place finish is a great indicator for her future aspirations.

Racewalkers Sandeep Kumar and Priyanka Goswami, finishing at the 23rd and 17th spot might apparently feel as an exaggeration for the ‘great’ category, but, given India’s vulnerability in track and field events, it was a decent result. Undoubtedly, Athletics is the biggest winner; however, sleeping on laurels is unacceptable, building on the momentum is key.

Golf

Verdict: Hit

Even in the wildest of dreams, if the contingent was expecting to pull-off a stunner in Athletics, Golf was never on the bucket list. Yet, Aditi Ashok nearly scripted the perfect fairy-tale. After four days of tedious days with the golf club, with her mother by her side (her caddie for the Tokyo Olympics), the Bengaluru-based athlete missed the bronze medal by a shot and the gold by a couple. 

It was a rare cat and mouse chase, between the world no 200 (Aditi) and some of the top-ranked golfers in the world. Having hung in the medal position for most parts, she slipped towards the climax. However, tempting millions of Indian people to turn on their television sets in the wee hours of a weekend, demands the attention of the highest order. Aditi Ashok is a trendsetter in its true sense!

Archery

Verdict: Meh

Deepika Kumari went into the Olympics as the world no. 1 archer  © World Archery

Burdened with accolades in the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics were enough to serve as indicators for desirable finishes. After repeated bottle-ups in the past two editions, it was the apt occasion to hit back at the critics. And, the stage was perfectly set too. Yet, it may sound a bit of clichéd, but ‘they crumbled under pressure’ once again. Yes, an antithesis would argue with the fact that the likes of Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari toppled higher-ranked opponents, but they’ve put themselves in such adverse situations. 

Deepika Kumari, Atanu Das – two of India’s prime prospects, failed to book prime slots for the final event, after their sub-par display in the qualifiers. It was enough to pit them against top-ranked archers earlier than they would have expected. Quite justifiably, most of them were eliminated by the South Koreans, a nation that monopolizes discipline. On the back of world cup wins, with also a no.1 in their ranks, three quarter-final finishes is hard to sink in.

Badminton

Verdict: Miss

Considering the pre-Olympic mishaps encountered by the shuttlers, the campaign can be termed as ‘good.’ Foremost, India’s contingent was a depleted one, with lack of qualifying events barring the entry of Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth. However, with the resources at disposal, fuelled by 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist PV Sindhu, hopes were visible, but slim in stature.

Group stage exits by Sai Praneeth and the Men’s pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty instantly turned the spotlight to PV Sindhu, as the last resort to save the derailed campaign. She did not let us down. She downed more fancied opponents to clinch her second Olympic medal, moreover, stamp her authority as the GOAT in Indian badminton. Returning with a bronze medal was a commendable result from the contingent, but having said, they are capable of doing much better, which has had an effect on my verdict, it's a 'miss' for Badminton.

Boxing

Verdict: Miss

Nine boxers, biggest ever contingent, medals were expected to flow in. In reality, leave aside multiple, only one medal, that too a bronze, was the collection by the entire contingent. What’s more disappointing? Five of them crashed out in the first round itself, which includes world no. 1 Amit Panghal, in the Men’s Flyweight. Surprisingly, boxing is one of the few sports at the Olympics, where two wins can guarantee a medal, yet, it seemed a road too rough for most of the pugilists.

Keeping aside the negatives, we ought to glorify the efforts of Lovlina Borgahain, who was not even in the list of medal prospects, churned out a dream-like outing to claim a bronze medal in the women’s Welterweight category. Satish Kumar (Super Heavyweight) and Pooja Rani (Middleweight) showed promise but slipped a step prior, en-route to a podium finish.

Table Tennis

Verdict: Hit

Rationally, none of the Indian paddlers set foot in Tokyo as a medal prospect, but, a spirited display was on the cards. They not only lived up to the hype, but also exceeded expectations, at least in a few departments. Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra’s mixed doubles pair, which was expected to reach the farthest, encountered an early exit, dilating the fortunes at the biggest stage, even further.

But, then came Manika Batra, India’s latest sensation in Table Tennis, coming up with a couple of extraordinary wins to propel herself to the third round in women’s singles event, which was a record by itself, before falling prey to Austria’s Sofia Polcanova.

Meanwhile, the legend, Sharath Kamal, also leaped to the third round. Up against arguably the greatest Table Tennis player of all time – Ma Long, the Indian produced a performance of a lifetime, before bowing out. The improvement in this department has been immense, with three years left for the Paris Games, the only way in UP.

Hockey

Verdict: Hit

The Indian men's hockey team claimed an Olympic medal for the first time in 41 years © Twitter

Enough of underperforming and absorbing taunts, getting compared with the fables of the glorious past, Indian hockey has put an end to a never-ending debate at the Tokyo Olympics. After a 41-year medal drought at the Olympics, the Indian men’s hockey team finally broke the jinx with a third-place finish. Considering the failure to make an appearance at the 2012 London Games, a shambolic outing in London, four years later, and a quarter-final exit in Rio 2016, the slope just keeps getting better. Are we heading towards the perfect climax in Paris 2024?

Even though the men’s team was touted as outside favorites to come back with a medal, the women counterparts were not subject to attention, with them making an entry in the grand stage for the third time ever. Off with a slow start, the Sjoerd Marijne-coached side staged a late resurgence, with wins in the last two group stage matches and in the quarter-final against the mighty Australians – re-creating a real-life Chak-de India moment. Losing to a better equipped Great Britain side narrowly, was not a shame by any means. 

From 16th place finish in Rio 2016 to 4th in Tokyo - what a journey it has been for Rani Rampal and Co.

Shooting 

Verdict: Meh

Albeit, shooting was supposed to be India’s golden duck going into the Tokyo Olympics, but the fact they’ve returned no medals, despite featuring in 15 events (most for any disciplines), just documents how they’ve flattered to deceive. Adding to the misery, they failed to qualify for the medal event in just of those occasions. Yes, the big-stage fright does play a big-part, but the shooters had enough homework to tick the correct boxes at the occasion. Yet, they failed, and not poorly, miserably.

It was only young Saurabh Chaudhary, who made his presence felt, having finished at the seventh spot in the men’s 10m air pistol event, while the duo of Saurabh-Manu Bhaker also reciprocated a similar standing the mixed 10m air pistol team event. 

The rest have been bang average, with none of them being able to script a top-10 finish to restore some salvation. All the efforts, the procurement of Visa for their stay in Croatia for a month-long exposure tour, down the drain within a span of few days. With three years left for Paris 2024, a rescue operation, which includes the elimination of internal feuds, is on the cards.

Weightlifting

Verdict: Hit

One athlete, one event – a silver medal won. It was a perfect outing for Mirabai Chanu, who ticked off India’s campaign in Tokyo with a silver medal. It was a remarkable feat, considering the odds she overcame and even bettered the bronze medal won by Karnam Malleswari at the 2000 Sydney Games. Arguably, the Indian set the tone for rest of the campaign. With Chanu still in her prime, and Paris 2024, less than three years to go, we can expect her to bag another medal when the next edition. For now, take a bow – Mirabai Chanu.

Wrestling

Verdict: Miss

Apparently, Wrestling has been a mixed bag, but, considering it contributed two medals to the overall tally and nearly a third one, we ought to classify it as a ‘good.’ No, Bajrang Punia was far from his best at the Tokyo Olympics, never have we seen him being dominated in such cruel manner. It was by virtue of a few lucky moments that he managed to place himself in a medal-winning position. Yet, he showed glimpses of his capabilities in the bronze medal match and earned himself a medal and redemption.

Vinesh Phogat, a primary contender, was literally outclassed in the second bout, against Belarus’ Kaladzinskaya – it was undoubtedly, one of the shocking exits in the entire campaign. Ravi Dahiya, on the other hand, punched above her weight, laid hands on the silver medal – an extraordinary feat. Deepak Punia would be kicking himself to miss out on a bronze medal, but he is only 22, with an exciting career ahead. The women wrestlers have underperformed big time, barring which; the outing was not a one to overlook.

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